Photo by Griffin Scott
Editorial coverage for U.S. Senior Nationals proudly sponsored by Master Spas!
By David Rieder
IRVINE, California, August 9. THE United States last won an Olympic gold medal in the men’s 400 free all the way back in 1984. Despite that, the event has still been a strong one for the country in recent years. Klete Keller won Olympic bronze medals in both 2000 and 2004, the same honor that Larsen Jensen took in 2008 and Peter Vanderkaay in 2012. With all three now long since retired, Connor Jaeger now carries the torch.
Despite having never competed in the event internationally, Jaeger won the bronze in the event at last year’s World Championships. He clocked 3:44.85 to finish behind just China’s Sun Yang and Japan’s Kosuke Hagino. However, that swim came in a relatively weak final, where fifth-place finisher James Guy swam a 3:47.96. That time would currently rank 16th in the world. Five of Jaeger’s potential Pan Pacs competitors – Ryan Cochrane, David McKeon, Hagino, Tae Hwan Park, and Mack Horton – have all swum faster already this year than Jaeger did last year.
Jaeger has been swimming well as of late, winning the 1500 on Wednesday in 14:51.06, and he already swam an eighth-ranked 3:45.34 earlier this year at the Bulldog Grand Slam. His 1500 time came about four seconds short of his time in that event from last year’s World Championships, but Jaeger showed some impressive finishing speed after getting caught up in a race with Michael McBroom early on. Perhaps we should not expect a performance in the 3:43-range considering that all meet long times have been slower than expected, but Jaeger will want to throw down a reminder of his credentials to the impressive Pan Pacs field.
Based on entry times and track records, Jaeger looks like he won’t have too much competition in the final tonight. Of those in the field, only Matt McLean, Michael Klueh, and McBroom have swum under 3:50 in their careers. Conor Dwyer, who finished second to Jaeger at last year’s Nationals before being disqualified, has scratched the event. McLean swam a 3:46.12, and he ended up claiming the second spot on the Worlds team post-DQ. McLean has been swimming well this week, winning the 200 free on Thursday, but he should be chasing Jaeger like Jaeger will chase the top times in the world.